Earlier this year I wrote about my adventures in a wood shop. Recently, I’ve added some more domestic pursuits to my making agenda, namely, sewing and knitting.
Inspired by Kenneth Brannagh’s recent take on Cinderella, I decided to make the world’s most feminine apron. I used a pattern for guidance, and picked out a couple of fabrics that I thought I went well together.
I’ve sewn a little before, but not too much. I made a pillow in middle school home economics, and I’ve watched my mother sew expertly, but that’s really about it. I thought it would be difficult, but what I never anticipated was that the absolute hardest part would be cutting the fabric. It looks like it should be the easiest part. Luckily, I had an excellent teacher at my side. My mother showed me how to pin the pattern to make the best use of the fabric, and then cut a few things out for me like it was nothing, letting me assist a bit. Then she stepped aside and let me try it out on my own.
But that’s the trick of the expert – they make very difficult things look easy. When I took over, I had to pin and repin the pattern pieces to the fabric at least three times, because I either left too much room between pieces (wasting fabric) or not enough (oops). I discovered that cutting in a straight line was difficult enough, and you can see from the photograph above that cutting a clean curve wasn’t any easier. Thankfully, patterns include a seam allowance that can hide any number of mistakes.
Once everything was cut, it was time to put it all together. I had to learn a whole new vocabulary in order to even read the instructions on the pattern, and using the machine was a feat of its own, but I found that I took to it pretty well. It was more physically tiring than cutting the fabric, and my seams were anything but straight and even, but I was able to look things up and figure things out – even gathered ruffles. It’s a little rough looking, but I’m quite proud of what I made.
And I learned a good lesson about teaching, also. I’m sure it must have been a little difficult for my mother to watch me struggle and get stuck, but she always seemed to know just how much guidance I needed, and how much more I would learn by being left to my own devices – even if it meant a truly rustic looking end product, at least in some places. In the work-in-progress photograph above, you can see some of those rustic bits exposed in all their glory.
I’m excited to do a bit more sewing in the future. I’ve already cut out the pieces for an apron-like tunic, and I can’t wait to put them all together.
Knitting is something I attempted once in the past, but I never took to it in any regular fashion, and though I owned some knitting needles and a ball of gorgeous black, brown, and tan mixed color yarn, I had no recollection of how to do any of it. I basically had to start from scratch. The first time I tried to knit a scarf, my sister (who is a genius with yarn) showed me everything I needed to know, and though she helped me do a lovely job, I lacked the patience I needed to finish it. So it’s lovely, but entirely too short.
This time around, I had to figure it all out on my own. I didn’t even know how to begin. I searched the internet for tutorials, and discovered that I needed to “cast on”. I watched about ten different videos showing how to do it, and finally, I got the yarn on the needles. After that, I found another ten videos on how to knit, and then off I went.
And I have to say, I quite enjoy it. My scarf is more than a little rough – I keep adding and dropping stitches, so the edges are all wobbly, and since my yarn is very thin, it keeps breaking so there are numerous points where I’ve literally tied the yarn together to keep it going, but it feels very cozy.
And it’s quite fun. I knit while I watch television, I knit on long car rides, and whenever the mood strikes me. While this photograph shows me at the beginning of the process, my scarf is now at least four times the length shown here. I’ve stopped adding stitches wildly.
The main difference between sewing and knitting is that while sewing takes intense focus and concentration, balancing looking closely at the details while keeping the big picture in mind. If you stare too closely at the seam you’re sewing, you might forget to stop at the right point. If you look too far ahead, your seam will go wonky. At least, if you’re a beginner like me, that is. With knitting, you fall into a rhythm. You have to pay attention, or else you’ll slip a stitch or split the yarn, but generally, it’s a comparatively meditative practice. I don’t think I’ll short out on this scarf like I did on the last one.
I did have one major mishap, though. I left my knitting in a pile on the couch next to me, and then when I got up, I placed my hand right down on one of my needles. Being wooden, it cracked easily. Since this whole project is an exercise in doing things myself, buying a new set of needles didn’t feel right. I had to figure out how to make do. I tried to simply sand down the crack and keep knitting, but it kept catching and pulling at the yarn. I ended up snapping the end of the needle completely off and sanded the new end to a rough, but not too rough, point. I’ve been able to continue just fine. One of my needles is rather a bit shorter than the other, but it works.
I can’t wait until it’s cold enough for me to want to wrap myself in swaths of wool.
It’s incredibly satisfying to make things, rather than buy them. Even though my apron and scarf aren’t of the highest quality craftsmanship, they feel just right to me. I love the freedom of customizing things just how I want to, and I even like the rough edges, the uneven seams, and the asymmetry of the shelf I made. As other things wear out their welcome, I feel like these little imperfect pieces are going to be the things I keep for the long haul.